I Deserve Nothing; But I Accept Everything!

Non merito niente, ma accetto tutto'

Encouragement is found in many places. When I realize that because of what God has done for me, I can call Him Father and address Him with confident expectation of receiving even more. While at the same time I in no way merit or deserve such a status. When my email and text messages are flooded with the prayers and thoughts of my welfare from other friends of God it reminds me of the fact that; “I deserve nothing; but I accept everything!

Scripture tells me that God indeed, is good. 1 Chronicles 16:34 and again we know and desire to be like Him as is requested in Psalms 119:68. Throughout Scripture we read of God’s good acts, gifts, works, promises, commands, and even his providence, promising all will work out for the good of those who love him (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Seeing so many of you give the Good gift of prayer and concern has been of great encouragement to us. So as in the words above taken from a Dominican Fr. Aquinas. I say to you all: “I Deserve Nothing; But I Accept Everything!”

‘Non merito niente, ma accetto tutto’ [Barron, R. (2010). Foreword. In Praying with Confidence: Aquinas on the Lord’s Prayer (p. x). London; New York: Continuum.]

New Year 2021 and Seven Things

A New Year is now well underway, and I find myself wondering, reading and reflecting on the timeless wisdom given us by many Christians from years past. Wisdom from the Apostles and from the men and women who have given us a wealth of guidance, direction, insight, and life examples over the last 2000 years.

As I get older, I find myself looking to the ageless advice of Christians who lived decades—even centuries—ago. They too made “another trip around the sun” every 365 days and saw many New Years.

So why?

Solomon tells us sage advice on what to expect in our New year:

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun. (NKJV)

While we may think the things we see are new, distressing, terrible, senseless and just plain unthinkable the "preacher above lets us know it's not the first time and it won't be the last as long as God allows us to make another "Trip Around The Sun" each Year".

But why?

1. Because the essential nature of people does not change.
2. Because God does not change.

Because they, the Christians and believers gone before my time, had a love of books, ideas, and fewer distractions for deep thought.
And so, the writing and thoughts of these men and women are truly gifts to me and all who are Christians today.

Having said these things I offer for your consideration the following closing portion of a powerful New Years message.

The author is James Smith. He was a pastor at the New Park Street Chapel in London, the same church Charles Spurgeon was to serve five years later. He gave this impactful New Years message that has much to say to us today. In spite of the fact that it was written in 1849. 

So here is a gift from the past. I Say these things for you as well. 
The essence of the message is this:  
The Lord meets us on the threshold of this year and assures us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!" He is deeply interested in our welfare, lovingly concerned to do us good, and ready to help us in every time of trouble. This is our encouragement.
There are Seven things I wish you may all more fully EXPERIENCE this year:
His Spirit working in your hearts,
His blood speaking in your consciences,
His power subduing your corruptions,
His blessing resting upon your souls,
His presence cheering your way,
His righteousness covering your sins,
His peace keeping your hearts and minds.

There are Seven things I wish you may know it is your privilege to HAVE this year:
a name in his book,
a sight of his covenant,
a tear in his bottle,
a place in his heart,
a title to his fullness,
a right to his promises, and
an interest in his prayers.

There are Seven things I wish you may DO this year:
weep at his cross,
wrestle at his throne,
cleave to his truth,
walk in his ways,
aim at his honor,
comfort his people, and
spread his fame in every direction.

There are Seven things which I wish you may ENJOY this year:
the light of his countenance,
the power of his love,
the hope of his calling,
the blessings of his chosen,
contentment under all dispensations,
liberty in performing his commands,
and victory over every foe.

There are Seven things from which I hope you may be PRESERVED from, this year:
a hard heart,
a seared conscience,
a Laodicean state,
a proud look,
an unforgiving spirit,
an envious eye, and
from distrusting God.

And now, brothers, sisters, friends, coworkers, frenemies and family Jesus can give all that I wish you to experience, to know, to enjoy! And he can preserve you from all I wish you to be kept from. But he says, “I will be inquired of, by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” You must ask, seek, knock, plead, wrestle, and agonize at his throne—for he loves a determined, importunate, persevering beggar.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Ya’ll come back now! Ya hear?

This line from the a 1960’s TV show that I loved to watch. It’s what Ellie Mae says at the end of the credits of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Y’all come back” Is not exactly what I want to do when it comes to 2020. But in looking in the rear view mirror of my year I am reminded to be thankful about all you and I have been through and what we have seen in 2020. Injustice, name calling, political party fighting, complaining about leaders from city to national level, protests, bombings, hate groups, great unemployment, disruption of business and economy, none of this was unique or unheard of. All of these I have seen in recent history. But the pandemic that was new. A global disease that jumped from it’s origin and covered the whole earth. Not one place was unaffected by this dreaded plague. That drove us to leave the four walls of our Church buildings and search for new ways to meet with our ever faithful God.

Before I Say Goodbye to 2020 I remember how with His great power God has kept me. While I have seen many things in our nation, society and personal lives that have disturbed me I have been sustained in my going in and out. Uncertainty, fear, anxiety all contributed to becoming more keenly aware of how God is in control. These things contributed to a desire to draw closer to the one who gives life and that life more abundantly. While disease and death, economic and civil unrest, seemed to win the day. God was able to give a peace that passes all understanding, a knowing that I am a pilgrim and sojourner, this world is not my home I’m just passing by. So I learned to let go of my expectations and goals and wholly put my trust in God.

We’ve experienced hardship and struggles, seen hostility in people we never would have imagined, and known the startling pressure anxiety can wield on our minds. Looking back on this year is daunting; we don’t want to remember the dark moments, or the pain of navigating them.

BUT….

Reflecting on 2020 is an invitation for us to see our need for a Savior.

As much as we don’t want to go back to those moments, the invitation urges us, that we would gain a greater understanding of our poverty, and our distress, so we might join our hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel. We see in Scripture how remembering, even the bitter times, can propel our hearts to repentance, dependence and renewed vision for what lies ahead.

So here we are at the onset of another year and like Ellie Mae, I hear the Holy Spirit saying “come back now” come back to the presence of your God, come back to praying with others daily, come back to reading my word each day, come back to encouraging and building others up, come back to weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice.

The “ya hear?” question at the end of this phrase was to make sure you heard the invitation to come back. I hope that you will hear the invitation God offers each day “return to Him”. For now you might feel like that A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed but God shall supply your needs.

Our need for a Savior is even greater in 2021. As 2020 winds up, and we are clueless to know what 2021 will hold, we know for certain we depend on our Savior.

So I invite you to come along with me this year repent, renew and trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Have a 2021 in which the Lord is first and the only one whom you lean on and trust.

Join us in reading through the Bible on a Chronological Bible journey. I encourage you to consider friends or relatives or church congregation members that you might want to invite along on this as well. Here is the link to the reading plan. you can read from your own Bible, Listen to an audio Bible, use an app on your phone or tablet or any combination but read the entire Bible in 2021 that is the goal. Here is the link to the information and a file you can print out. https://www.chronologicalbibleblog.com/2010/12/welcome-to-the-chronological-bible-blog.html

Reflection – A Different Christmas for many filled with “Firsts”

Reflections

But… this year will be different instead of 4 place settings some of our friends will now have three or maybe even two place settings at their family table. Where there were 4 stockings there will now be three or less hanging over the mantle. Empty seats that were previously filled with a loving mom, dad, brother, uncle, aunt, sister etc. … will now stare at us reminding us of our loss. 2020 has brought great differences in our lives and this yearly celebration of the birth of the Christ Child will prove to be difficult and different for many.

Instead of traveling to see our parents who are 90+ years old, or getting our children and grands together in a central location we are singing “just the two of us”. Spending holiday time with the families who have loved and adopted us wherever we have moved even this will not be as it was in times gone by.

A beloved friend and sister in Christ delivered a present yesterday. She rang the door bell, thrust the package to me at arms length and stepped off the porch and said “love you” as she hurried to the car. Last year she would have come inside to fellowship and spend time knitting or crocheting with my wife — but not this Christmas.

A young couple God brought into our lives some years ago had a gift for us to pick up. They also are celebrating their third child, Elijah, or Eli as he is called by his sister and brother. Elijah is six weeks old and we have never been close to him, yet they wanted us to meet. So we did, but instead of handing him to us to coo and hold we looked at him through masks and stood 6 feet apart outdoors on their porch in 49 degree weather. Little Eli had so many blankets and caps on we could barely see him. Yet we rejoiced because even this was counted as a blessing and another first.

This day is bound to be marked by both joy and sorrow, both celebration and grief. It will be a day on which we’ll be confronted with one very sad and one very happy reality—the death of family, friends and the birth of our Savior.

Christmas is the day Christians remember the birth of Jesus. On this day we remember that day. “[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” We believe this is no mere myth, no mere morality tale, but an actual, historical event in which God was born a man. This God-man was born into a broken world—a world of suffering, a world of sorrow, a world in which even our greatest pleasures are marred by the knowledge that we are never far from grief, never far from loss.

In 2020 our world and our nation is broken, a world and nation of suffering, a world and nation of injustice, a world and nation of sorrow a world and nation constantly reminded daily that …”there is but a step between us and death.” 1 Samuel 20:3b.

As we ponder the birth of Jesus, we cannot help but consider the many references to both darkness and light. In the Scriptures many years before Jesus was born, Isaiah and Zechariah prophesied “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Old Zechariah exclaimed poetically that “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…” The shepherds who were tending their flocks through the night were interrupted by the glory of the Lord blazing in the darkness. The wise men saw a bright star glimmering in the night sky. Simeon exclaimed that this Jesus was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

So in many ways the death of our loved ones is a direct result of the Birth of Christ. Because Christ was born we have hope beyond the firsts of this year. We hope beyond the grave, we hope beyond the suffering, injustice, and sorrow. We have hope for that day when “….God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (AMPC)

Noon Day Prayer

We are drawn together by prayer. COVID has had many positive effects on myself and the members of our community. As we gather to pray our hearts have become united to pursue God on behalf of our family, friends, local community, state, and nation.

Our love of God and the grace given for salvation through Jesus Christ has allowed us to “bear each others burden” with purposeful intent on seeing God work in the lives of those we bring to Him.

The pattern of Daniel praying three times a day was the initial inspiration for this gathering but it has expanded into a memorial time, set aside to be grateful for the one who gave us the privilege to enter the presence of the Lord God our creator.

Daniel purposed to spend three times a day in prayer as a meaningful part of his daily prayer system. Understanding that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right“. 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT It seemed good to use this as an example for our prayer system as well.

Our noon day time also includes a devotional focus on praying scripture. We are currently working through Psalms 119 seeing how the Psalmist gave their cares, worries, fears and questions to the eternal, never changing creator of heaven and earth and all that there is.

The Fact

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

You and I will probably never hear an audible voice like Jesus did on that momentous day. Yet confidence and faith for living each day can be drawn from knowing who you are.

But we too can know who we are in a way that encourages us and clarifies our calling. Romans 8 affirms that we are “the children of God” (8:14).1 John 3:1 adds, “See what love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Confident in the love of our Heavenly Father, we can live boldly for his purposes, serving him in every facet of our lives. In this way we, like Jesus, can bring great joy to our Father. The fact that we are God’s beloved children can make a difference in our work. In times of discouragement, we can be reassured by the fact that God cares for us. When we face opposition or injustice, we can be strengthened by the knowledge of who we are. When we feel lonely or isolated, we can remember that God is with us and will never let us go. In everything we do, we can seek to give joy to our Heavenly Father, knowing that he delights in us.

A daily dose of quiet time in the word of God lets those timeless principles and promises speak to our souls and encourage us to follow God’s plan for our lives each day.

Al Kol Eleh (“Over All These”)

Realizing that life brings bitter and sweet the lyrics of this song have been teaching me much about how the years add up but…. (“over all these”) God has been ever faithful to keep us. BFPPG = Blessing Favor Protection Provision and Grace from an everlasting, ever-faithful God.

Every bee that brings the honey
Needs a sting to be complete
And we all must learn to taste the bitter with the sweet.

Keep, oh Lord, the fire burning
Through the night and through the day
For the man who is returning 
from so far away.

Chorus:
Don’t uproot what has been planted
So our bounty may increase
Let our dearest wish be granted:
Bring us peace, oh bring us peace.
For the sake of all these things, Lord,
Let your mercy be complete
Bless the sting and bless the honey
Bless the bitter and the sweet.

Save the houses that we live in
The small fences and the wall
From the sudden war-like thunder
May you save them all.

Guard what little I’ve been given
Guard the hill my child might climb
Let the fruit that’s yet to ripen
Not be plucked before its time.

As the wind makes rustling night sounds
And a star falls in its arc
All my dreams and my desires
Form crystal shapes out of the dark.

Guard for me, oh Lord, these treasures
All my friends keep safe and strong,
Guard the stillness, guard the weeping,
And above all, guard this song.

𝑯𝒐𝒘 𝒅𝒐𝒆𝒔 𝒎𝒚 𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒆𝒏 𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒘

Oh Lord, Oh Lord how does my garden grow? I cannot tell you of the excitement I feel when I see a spiritual truth blossom right before my eyes. The awe and wonder of two primary things are very evident. 1. Genesis 2:5-7 says: “When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth…. and there were no people to cultivate the soil.” and 2. In verse 15 it says: “Then the Lord placed the man there to tend the garden”. My paraphrase.

So I notice two things. One, each year as I plant, I am following my divine directive to tend the earth, from there God takes charge and causes all things to grow. Two, my tending skills, still need improving and for that I have a great resource right here in my local area. God has given me a great person to sharpen my garden tending skills. If you are interested in growing tomatoes and other plants in grow bags and straw bales then visit the site of Gardner, Author, and Educator the NCTomatoMan.

Having given that brief intro let me get to the results thus far. I’m posting the short videos for comments and tips. These first two pictures are: on the left; The Hannah’s Prize (same name as one of my grand daughter’s) and on the right The Freezy 5550. The Freezy tomato was taste tested in Arkansas by our parents who are 91 and 89 years old, so that qualifies them as heirloom experts. Their description of the freezy is it is sweet and mild tasting it is great for a tomato sandwich.

Honey and I tested the Hannah’s Prize (left) and it is a terrific slicing tomato just made for those juicy impossible burgers or any other variety of burger you like. Thick skinned and meaty with a tart flavor that will set mustard and jalapenos off on a good burger.

Now, for my noted issues after we returned from a week of automatic gardening. (Pic 1)Plenty of wilted and brown leaves on all varieties. In anticipation of an unusually hot week while we were gone I set the drip irrigation to 45 minutes of water every 12 hours. (Pic 2) One tomato, one hole all else looks fine. I’m not sure what did this, but evidently one was enough. (Pic 3) Deer attack again, these critters are smart, they never eat the whole plant, just the leaves and flowers and leave enough to come back later. I use a deer repellant and it works so I think I am not applying it often enough. I have put it out twice since April 29. Tips anyone.

As I endeavor to fulfill my role as a gardner in this wonderful garden, surrounded by people who are willing to help I realize how grateful I am to know I have a purpose and it is found in Jesus.

Good Friday?

Q:

Why do they call the day on which Jesus was crucified “Good Friday”? What was good about it? I think we ought to call it “Black Friday” or something like that.

A:

If you had spoken with Jesus’ family and followers on that Friday I suspect they would have agreed with you. Then all hope seemed lost; Satan and his servants seemed to have won; evil and death seemed to have triumphed.

But if you had spoken with them only a few days later, you would have heard something entirely different! Then they knew all was not lost; Satan and his servants had not won; evil and death had not triumphed. In fact, the opposite was the case: The forces of evil had been defeated, death had been destroyed, and from that point, onward human life would never be the same.

What made the difference? The difference was twofold: Jesus’ tomb was empty, and He had appeared to them. In other words, Jesus had broken the bonds of death, and now He was alive! And suddenly they realized that what had seemed at first to be a defeat was, in fact, a victory—a victory over Satan and sin and death. The Bible says, “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death. … But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:23-24).

Why is it called “Good Friday”? Because by His death, Jesus became the final and complete sacrifice for our sins. We cannot erase our guilt, nor can we overcome our sins by our good deeds. But Christ did what we could never do for ourselves, by dying for us on that first Good Friday. May this day truly become “Good Friday” for you, as you confess your sins and put your faith and trust in Christ.

Pray now to put your faith and trust in Christ.